Located in the North of Senegal, the Saint Louis region has been partnering GRET in development projects for a good many years. The Agence Régionale du Développement there has been working on improving access to drinking water for the region since 2012, partnering GRET in the Aicha project. Ousmane Sow, its new director, replies to these questions put by In Touch and dealing with the stakes for the region subsequent to the local government reform.
In Touch: What are the development stakes and challenges for the Saint-Louis region?
The region has a strong card to play in taking on a productivity function for its population, and also for the whole nation. No other region of Senegal has as many assets to help make the country self-sufficient in rice.
Saint-Louis is also a region with a lot of water where it is difficult to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, no one imagines that here more than 100,000 inhabitants have no access to such a vital resource. The challenge today is therefore to manage to get organised in terms of providing drinking water.
The other test is to improve territorial governance. From the decentralisation policy standpoint, there is a need for local policies to be better positioned to take on the really big challenges. This will not happen so long as there is no appropriate governance mechanism in place bringing the various players into the game.
Lastly, the region is very vulnerable and one where you see every day a degradation of the natural resources. It is important that strategy initiatives be twice as many and twice as strong so that the region can be protected from the negative effects of climate change.
In Touch: What are the stakes in the recent decentralisation reform in Senegal?
The challenge for this reform was to solve the equation linked to the weak financial resources and weak initiatives undertaken by local govenment. The reform was supposed to create economically viable and attractive territories. That is why the northern part of the region, with the common reference being the Senegal River, should be just one large entity around which a single development strategy would be implemented in the medium and long term. That pole should take on all the growth-generating projects. Today, the departmental councils have sufficient awareness to go in the direction of saving the ongoing cooperational projects. The strategy set up by the regional authorities consists in moving towards an arrangement between the three départements in which the partners are operating, through the signature of a protocol which will guarantee that these cooperations will be continued. On that our partners are quite happy with this initiative while awaiting to see the context become clearer.
In Touch: The Saint Louis region has been involved with GRET and the ARD since 2012 for the Aicha project furthering access to drinking water for the inhabitants. How are the various initiatives progressing?
Our collaboration with GRET fits into the region’s policy to help correct the unfair paradox whereby populations have no access to drinking water while at the same time living close to water. On that point, the Aicha project brings with it innovative solutions for securing and maximising the production and supplying of drinking water services for the populations. So many problems and limits were observed that appropriate solutions had to be envisioned , and these are the themes on which we are working with GRET. Today you can’t just come along with ready-made solutions. Today you need an experience capitalised elsewhere, and ask yourself how these experiences can be adapted to other conditions. The Aicha programme is in the process of delegating policy for those functions to technically qualified operators. The government has chosen to move towards the professionnalisation of water and sanitation management, and is even considering entrusting the production and distribution of water to private operators.